In my approach to house cleaning, I am the kind of a person who will allow messes to build up. I don’t like to tidy as I go. When I do clean, I will do a surface treatment and shuffle a couple of things around. When it gets bad, then I know it is time to clean up again.
In contrast to my approach, there is the way that my wife Cathe does it, which is constantly. She is always cleaning. She will be cleaning a dish while I am still eating off of it and ironing the sheets while I am still in bed. She is always cleaning.
The same applies to our spiritual lives. If we neglect our spiritual lives, messes begin to build up, some problems begin to develop, and we begin to reap the consequences of wrong decisions. Maybe that could be said of your life right now. As you look back on the past year, you could honestly say, “I have made some mistakes. I have made some wrong turns in this narrow road that leads to life. I have had a few setbacks.” If so, this is a time for a serious house cleaning.
As another year ends and a new one begins, we should take stock of ourselves spiritually. We should ask ourselves questions such as, “How did I do last year? Did I grow closer to the Lord? Have I made spiritual progress?” This is a good time for assessment.
In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul reminds us of what we need to be focusing on in the Christian life:
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
– verses 13-14, NKJV
On more than one occasion, the Bible, specifically the New Testament, compares the Christian life to running a race. Paul used this particular analogy often, and there are many principles we can learn from it.
First, as we run this race, we must play by the rules, or we will be disqualified (see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Anyone who has watched the Olympics knows that athletes can be disqualified for breaking the rules or even bending them, regardless of how well they have done in their particular sport. If drugs are detected in their body and so forth, they are disqualified.
As we are running this spiritual race, we need to play by God’s rules. This means that we don’t make up the rules as we go, bend them, or disregard them. We understand that God has put those parameters in place for our own good. When we read in Scripture that certain things are wrong, we should go out of our way to avoid them. When certain things are right, we should go out of our way to embrace them and do them.
Second, we must run as lightly as possible and always keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2 says:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus …
Third, we must beware of those who would try to stop us from running this race. Paul wrote in Galatians 5:7, “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (NKJV).
Fourth, we must finish the race we have begun (see 2 Timothy 4:7-8). This race that we are running is definitely a long-distance run. It doesn’t matter if you have held first position for nine-tenths of the race. If you crash and burn before you reach the finish line, you don’t win. You have to cross that line. The key is to finish this race and get across the finish line.
Let’s not live in the past. Let’s move forward as believers. The days have never been darker. At the same time, opportunities have never been greater. This is a race that we all must run. Look at your own life, and ask God to speak to you. If you need to make any changes, do it now. Start the new year on the right foot with your priorities in order and your focus clear.